[This spring], 250 citizens of the Cowichan Valley met at the Heritage Hall in Duncan to learn about solar hot water during a “Solar Energy Workshop”. There was a real buzz in the room as citizens talked with genuine interest with solar contractors, listened to guest speakers and posed questions in a public forum session.
The Cowichan Carbon Busters s organized the workshop. They are an informal group of citizens who want to help our community make the necessary transition to a non-fossil fuel economy.
During the meeting, 77 people signed up to join the Solar Hot Water Club, with a view to engaging in a group installation in the Cowichan Valley. This was a “fantastic response” said Peter Nix, spokesperson for the Cowichan Carbon Busters.
Mr. Nix noted that “such a large turnout on a beautiful Sunday afternoon indicates that many people now understand the need to act on climate change issues – there has been enough talk.” He said “the Cowichan Valley may become the first community in Canada to undertake a large group installation of solar hot water”.
Mr. Nix opened the forum with the comment that our air is a precious resource that needs protection just as we protect our drinking water.
Companies with the skills to undertake solar thermal installations were present at the meeting, including TerraTec, who recently won the Solar Installer of the Year Award from SolarBC.
Many people also signed up to join a Carbon Busters Circle, a small group which helps householders plan to reduce their carbon footprints, which has been pioneered by the Cowichan Carbon Busters in partnership with the BC Sustainable Energy Association.
Phil Kent, Mayor of Duncan, strongly supported the initiative and told the meeting “it is important for individuals and groups in the community to support local politicians who understand the need for a fundamental “green” shift in our economy.”
The guest speaker was Mr. Guy Dauncey, president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association based in Victoria (www.bcsea.org). He said said, “It is a credit to the Cowichan Valley that so many local people want to step forward and show individual leadership on this crucial issue”.
Mr. Dauncey summarized the scientific evidence that should compel everyone to take action on climate change saying “we must do this if we want to maintain our ecosystems on this planet and, most importantly, protect the future for our children and grandchildren”.
Mr. Dauncey explained that our generation is the only one that can effectively act on this issue. Waiting is not an option. Since there is no longer any debate among scientists about the urgency of changing to a non-fossil fuel economy, Mr. Dauncey quickly moved on to present examples of positive actions taken by people, businesses and countries all over the world.
He showed slides of electric cars in Berlin, an office tower in China powered by wind turbines installed on the 40th floor, and 80,000 apartments in Stockholm, Sweden that are powered by heat from sewage.
And the best part is that when we decrease impacts of climate change, we will also stimulate the local economy. So “going green” is in our best interest both financially and environmentally. For example, instead of buying fossil fuel for our gas-guzzling cars, we should plan to buy electricity from local “solar farmers” for use in electric cars. We should try to purchase food from local producers and pay local workers to retrofit our houses to save energy.
Mr. Dauncey concluded with a list of 10 suggestions for the people in the Cowichan Valley:
Form a Cowichan Valley Cycling Coalition;
Join the Carbon Buster Solar Hot Water Club;
Join a Carbon Buster Circle to plan how you can reduce your household’s carbon footprint;
Ask the CVRD to set up a Climate Action Task Force;
Start a Cowichan Valley ride-sharing program;
Form an Electric Vehicle Conversion Cooperative, to convert regular cars to electric drive;
Form a monthly letter writing club to urge more action by all levels of governments;
Organize a local food-growing club;
Join the Cowichan Bio-diesel Co-operative;
Organize Green Teams in the businesses, schools, and orgamizations where you work, to make them more environmentally responsible.
The green economy is sweeping the world. And, those countries which adapt most quickly will be rewarded. For example, Germany’s efforts to create a “green” industry have created 250,000 jobs, with people building wind turbines and making and installing solar panels.
Nitya Harris, executive director of SolarBC, followed Mr. Dauncey’s talk with a discussion on the benefits of using solar thermal heating for heating domestic hot water. She encouraged people to sign up to benefit from solar hot water system, and explained how the SolarBC programmeworks, with funding from the province’s LiveSmartBC and the federal government. (www.solarbc.ca).
Rebates from the government make these units very affordable – even if you exclude the almost certain rise in the price of conventional electricity and fossil fuels in the future. There are about $1,600 worth of rebates, plus the federal government’s tax credit of 15% promised in the recent budget which reduces the cost of a household solar hot water system to the $4,000 to $5,000 range.
SolarBC will give back a further $375 if 20 or more homes install solar thermal as a group. This made an immediate impact – 77 people signed up for going solar thermal. This group will meet with the Cowichan Carbon Busters soon to discuss the choices of solar thermal technology and prepare a request for proposals from contractors.
Spokesperson Peter Nix said they hope to achieve even further cost savings by buying solar equipment in bulk – contact firstname.lastname@example.org.